We all must be mindful of pedestrians

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By Jim Durham, chairman, Alexandria Bicycle and PEdestrian Advisory Committee (File photo)

The Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) is acting to improve safety across the city, with a recent focus in Old Town.

Implementing city plans and policies will make Alexandria more walkable and bikeable, but we recognize that the behavior of drivers, cyclists and pedestrians also contributes to how safe and comfortable it feels to walk, drive and cycle, particularly in Old Town. BPAC encourages behavior that is Respectful, Predictable and Lawful. The value of being predictable and lawful should be self-evident and these are common themes in transportation safety education. Being respectful is no less important.

Drivers and cyclists demonstrate respect for pedestrians when they stop not only at stop signs, but also at other pedestrian crossings when people are waiting to cross the street. Cyclists show respect for pedestrians by avoiding sidewalks where there are safer alternatives. Where the sidewalk is the only safe option (and where it isn’t prohibited) cyclists should yield to pedestrians.

For me, that means stopping and stepping aside well in advance of an oncoming pedestrian, and leaving them a wide berth when overtaking. It is not just a matter of avoiding the pedestrian, but clearly yielding and doing so in sufficient time so the pedestrian knows what the cyclist will do.

In September, BPAC launched a two-day education outreach campaign aimed at cyclists entering Old Town from the north and south along the Mount Vernon Trail.  We set up information booths and talked to cyclists about safety as well as respectful, predictable and lawful behavior.

Each Thursday in October “bike ambassadors” from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and local volunteers from BPAC and Alexandria Spokeswomen used signs and smiles to encourage respectful and lawful behavior along Union Street in Old Town. Drivers and cyclists alike seemed to get the message.

We agree that it will take time to change engrained attitudes of some cyclists, so BPAC plans to continue these events. Please help by being Respectful, Predictable and Lawful, whether you are driving, cycling, or walking.

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